As the 2018 session of the Washington State legislature draws to a close, one bill with the aim of assisting low-income renters has passed both chambers. If it becomes law, House Bill 2578 would prohibit landlords from turning would-be renters away based on their source of income—specifically assisting those that get rental assistance through Section 8 and other programs.
The passage of the bill comes just after a sting by the Washington State Attorney General’s office that found rampant discrimination against veterans using federal housing vouchers—compounding an already higher risk of homelessness.
The Attorney General’s office’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit’s sting found that 10 property management companies across Washington were turning away would-be renters with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, which assist veterans with disabilities.
Eight of those companies, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said (per the Seattle Weekly), have agreed to stop the practice and pay fines. The other two, Ferguson said, refused to enter agreements; the AG’s office will file suit if for some reason HB 2578 doesn’t become law.
The bill wouldn’t just help Section 8 and VASH recipients; it’d also apply to those receiving social security or other benefits who are “otherwise eligible.” It would also prohibit a landlord from evicting an otherwise eligible tenant or adjusting lease terms based on source of income.
Landlords would be exempted if accomodating a tenant required making improvements costing more than $1,500, but it also establishes a landlord mitigation fund, funded by the affordable housing for all surcharge, to make certain improvements to rental units when necessary.
A 2016 Seattle ordinance already prohibits discrimination based on source of income in the city—but as high rents price people outside the city limits, state renter protections, especially those that target low-income residents, become more relevant.
HB 2578 still needs to be signed by Governor Jay Inslee before it becomes law.